For the third successive year, the Donegal crew of Manus Kelly/Donall Barrett in their Applegreen backed Subaru WRC took victory in the Letterkenny based Joule Donegal International Rally.
They finished 42.4 seconds ahead of the Ford Fiesta R5 of the Monaghan/Cork duo, Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson with the Monaghan/Wexford pairing of Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes in a similar car 22.2 seconds further behind in third.
Kelly began Saturday’s eight stages with a lead of 9.3 seconds over the Ford Fiesta WRC of Declan Boyle with Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) 13.4 seconds further behind in third. Over the wet roads of Carnhill and Knockalla, Jennings made some great headway with a pair of fastest stage times to move into second, 14.5 seconds behind Kelly. Boyle retired his Ford Fiesta WRC with a broken driveshaft.
On the repeat of both stages, Jennings continued unabated - getting the maximum from his Kumho shod Subaru he trimmed the deficit to 7.9 seconds. Darren Gass (Subaru WRC) crashed out on Stage 9 while Stage 10, the repeat of Knockalla, claimed the Fiesta R5 of Robert Barrable, who crashed on a right-hander where a concrete post pierced through the door and hit his knee. Part of the debris also hit his co-driver Damien Connolly, who later received a facial stitch.
The retirements of Boyle and Gass elevated Josh Moffett into third and the first of the R5 Fiesta brigade. However, his elder brother Sam was only 3.7 seconds behind. Just like he did on the first day, Killarney’s Rob Duggan set the best time on the morning’s opening stage and considering it was his first experience of the stages it was an impressive performance. Fellow Fiesta R5 debutant, Derry’s Callum Devine, was sixth.
The fact that the afternoon stages were on Kelly’s home patch offered the rally leader some respite and the possibility to repel the rampant Jennings. However with a dramatic improvement in the weather the duel in the sun never materialised as Jennings, who opted to switch to Michelin tyres, crashed out of the rally.
Suddenly, Kelly’s lead margin was a minute 39.6 seconds with Josh Moffett into second, 8.3 seconds ahead of his brother Sam. Duggan in fourth admitted he was struggling in the dry conditions and really didn’t have a set up to suit as opposed to his performance on the wet roads. Devine’s drive was on an upward curve. On the day’s final pair of stages the positions remained unchanged as Kelly led Josh Moffett at the overnight halt by a minute and 39.7 seconds with Sam Moffett 10.2 seconds further behind in third. Duggan remained in fourth.
Yesterday, Kelly, from Glen Swilly and his Milford co-driver Barrett secured the win without any undue pressure. The battle for second and, more importantly, top points in the Tarmac series was intriguing and while Josh Moffett began the day 12.8 seconds ahead of his brother Sam, the latter reeled him in on the day’s third stage and went on to claim the points and the lead of the Tarmac series.
Josh Moffett had a major moment on the first run over Atlantic Drive and thereafter decided to settle for second place points. Duggan, like many more, had tyre choice issues but came home a fine fourth against opposition with much more experience of the Donegal terrain. Devine, who spun his Fiesta early in the day, finished fifth followed by the Hyundai i20 of Eugene Donnelly. Ian Barrett (Darrian T90 GTR) won the National category.
Elsewhere, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Clearwater Racing teammates Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok had to be content with eighth place in the Pro-Am category of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
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